Thirteen

★★★★
The heaviest, most gripping film about thirteen-year-olds you may ever see.
Movie Review #983

thirteen

From its very first moments, “Thirteen” is unique, heavy (even somewhat disturbing), and brutally engaging. The film begins in medias res. We open to two thirteen-year-old girls (Evan Rachel Wood and Nikki Reed) inhaling from a can of computer cleaner, hitting each other hard and feeling nothing, splitting their lips on a bedside table and not caring.

“Thirteen” is based on actress Nikki Reed’s experiences as a thirteen-year-old. Remarkably, she co-wrote the screenplay with director Catherine Hardwicke in a matter of six days, at the age of 14. To call the result an accomplishment is an understatement. Reed’s eye provides an über-authentic depiction of teenage life. Theoretically, “Thirteen” better represents the older teenage demographic than it does the seventh graders at the heart of the story. On paper, it may be difficult to believe that these two girls would be drinking alcohol, smoking weed, using inhalants, stealing purses, and having sex at age 13, but the depiction of all this is truly convincing.

“Thirteen” was independently produced on a budget of $2 million. Many of the limitations provide for an immensely natural atmosphere. The teen-pop soundtrack and the naturally lit Super 16mm filming do “Thirteen” a huge favor in making it a low-key, gritty drama. (Yes, “Thirteen” is about two thirteen-year-olds, but I do not advise exhibiting it to anybody that age.) Topping all that off is a great cast. Evan Rachel Wood portrays a parallel to the real-life experiences of Nikki Reed, and Reed herself co-stars as a fictionalized version of her best friend. Their performances feel so authentic that Holly Hunter’s stellar performance as their motherly figure seems only an added bonus.

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